Sofia                                        2018, June

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26th. June 2018 Tuesday, Flight to Sofia

At last the great day arrived, our six days mini-holidays in Sofia to go to the wedding of a relative of Mariana were about to begin. Although our flight was supposed to take off at 20:30, the day was too short bearing in mind all the things left to do: taking the cat to the cattery, picking up our suitcases from my parents', shower, lunch and then heading to Malaga at 16:30. Our departure to Malaga was just at that time driving through all the paid highway sections to the airport. We reached ECP parking at 18:00, our usual parking whenever flying from Malaga. We did the check-in at 19:15 and crossed the security at 19:30. Some food before embarking and we were at our seat in the plane at 20:15. The take off from Malaga was at 21:00, half an hour late. The plane had two seats per row instead the three that used to have all the planes to Sofia in the past. The trip was quite comfortable, listening to music and with no unpleasant people around. The touch down in Sofia was at 00:15 Spanish time, 01:15 Bulgarian time. It took us longer than usual to cross the border, the agents checked our passports very thoroughly, I don't know the reason yet. Irena was waiting for us at arrivals with Stefan to take us to their home, where we should sleep the following three nights. Our rest in bed started at 02:00 Bulgarian time.

Mariana, Marta and me at Málaga Airport

Dawn way to Sofía

27th. June 2018 Wednesday, Mall Serdika

We woke up at 10:00 Bulgarian time, the sky was grey and the temperature was 16 °C. Irena and Stefan were working, so their flat was entirely for us. After breakfast at the flat we took a trolley-car to meet Stanimira, an old friend of ours and the lawyer who arranged all the documentation for our wedding in Sofia in the year 2000. Boulevard Vitosha, the main commercial street in Sofia was beautiful. After a stroll along this street we entered a clothing shop to buy some home apparels for our New Yorker friend's small daughter. Stamimira was waiting for us in her house to have a drink and chat for a while when we were done at that shop, but before, because of the light yet constant rain, we bought an umbrella. The rain  continued falling even harder on Sofia after seeing Stanimira off. Our new destination was a street behind Aleksander Nevsky cathedral to take a tram that took us to the Serdika commercial centre. We got completely soaked on the way to this tram stop though: the small umbrella had to cover three persons, so we were in need of another one. Just fifty meters away from our stop there was a shop that saved our lives, and a new umbrella avoided a cold to the three of us. While Mariana was buying the tickets, the tram we were waiting for came into sight. Once at the Mall Irena joined us (she worked there). She kept our bags at her office for us to be more comfortable. A Serbian restaurant attracted our attention to have lunch; we also bought some exquisite beans and sausages. Our stroll around the mall continued until Irena left her office. My visit included my favourite establishment "Technopolis", a kind of Bulgarian Mediamarkt. Irena's house was our next destination reaching there by tram again, by the way, completely crowded. Stefan returned from his work as well and we made an exquisite dinner that was eaten in front of the TV set watching the world championship football match Brazil vs Serbia, with the victory of Brazil 2-0. Once the match was over we all went to bed.

Serdika Mall main entrance

Inside Serdika Mall

28th. June 2018 Thursday, Museiko/ Bvd. Vitosha

The sun rose in Sofia in a sky with more clouds than the day before. As a matter of fact the whole country was in orange alert because of heavy rains. A tram took us to NDK and another one to Tzum after having breakfast at Irena's. Then the tube to the "Lions Building" or the Justice Palace of Sofia where our friend and best man of our wedding Bozhidar worked as a prosecutor. The cafe "Vitosha street" was our meeting point in Vitosha Bvd. After having a drink and chatting for a while with him, a tube took us to "Museiko", or "Музейko" in Bulgarian. All the stuff exposed there was very interesting not only for Marta but for her parents as well. We had lunch at that very place. The Geology and the Outer Space sections were the most interesting for me.

Another tube took us back to the centre of Sofia, we went off concretely at the Saint Clement Ohrid University. Mariana and Marta entered a bookshop at the exit of the underground and I went to stroll around the astonishing Aleksander Nevsky cathedral, I will never get tired of gazing at it. I met Mariana and Marta in front of the main entrance of the Radisson hotel, very close to Aleksander Nevsky cathedral, later on. Our stroll around the city centre continued always with our open umbrellas, until a five floors book-shop called "Orange". Once we were done at this commerce, we headed to Vitosha Bvd. Plenty of businesses at this street; one of them was a shoe-shop from where I bought some black and formal shoes to wear in the wedding the following day. It was around 19:00, and our appointment with Irena, Stefan, Ivan and Maria with their sons at a restaurant called "Garden House" was getting closer. We had dinner there watching the match "England vs Belgium".

Selfie with Aleksander Nevsky at the bottom

Garden House, restaurant where we had dinner on 28 June, Thursday

29th. June 2018 Friday, Civil Wedding - NDK concert

The rain was still present in Sofia. The day started at the centre of Sofia after a shower and a quick breakfast. A tram and the tube took us there. We went off at NDK or the Palace of Culture. A visit to the hotel Tsar Assen, where I slept the first time I travelled to Sofia, took me back in time to the year 2000. Later on, always on foot, we reached our favourite Vitosha Boulevard, where we run into Bobby and Bozhidar. Bobby was an American teacher from South Carolina, teaching history at the Bulgarian American University who translated my Bulgarian wedding into English in the year 2000. Our walk went on until an area called "Halite" full with all kind of small business and shops mainly for clothes from where we bought some stockings and socks. On our way back we entered the before mentioned covered market to buy fine wine for Stefan who did us the favour of our lives taking us from his house to the city council hall where the wedding of the daughter of Mariana's cousin was going to be held, and then to the hotel "Best Western Plus" where we should sleep the two last nights of our week in Sofia. Back at Irena's at 12:30 with some food from a shop to have lunch. Once our lunch was over we did our luggage. Then Stefan picked is up seeing off the flat where we had stayed for three days and three nights. My most sincere grateful message for Irena and Stefan for having made us feel as if we were at our own house. Our next stop was the place where the civil wedding was going to be held. A very touching and humble ceremony at the same time. The act was a copy of our wedding with Mariana eighteen years ago. Stefan was waiting for us and took us to the hotel "Best Western Plus". Our luggage was left there and the informal celebration could be found at a restaurant of the famous chain "Happy'' which we reached by underground. Only the relatives and the best man and woman had been there for some hours eating and drinking. This private party was over at 19:00. A very interesting concert was waiting for us at NDK or the National Palace of Culture but time was not on our side. An astonishing spectacle was waiting for us: The Red Army Choir in action with a luxury repertoire, including Second World War songs that made the crowd at that attractive auditorium formerly used by the Communist Party for their meetings, stand up and clap intensively for long minutes. A small audio of the concert can be found below this paragraph, the famous song "Katiushka" be more accurate:

 

 

 

The return to the hotel by tube at 21:00 was a real odyssey for the crowd leaving NDK collapsed the public transport. We reached our accommodations at last and went to bed completely exhausted.

 

Selfie with NDK, where we saw a very good concert

Red Army Choir performance in NDK

Hotel Best Western Union Plus, where the wedding was held

30th. June 2018 Saturday, Wedding Celebration

The hotel was quite acceptable. We settled down in the evening, having a pleasant night. I had only one left in this trip to Sofia. Mariana's parents and her aunt were arriving the following day by bus from Yambol and Stara Zagora respectively and we had to pick them up from the Bus Central Station of Sofia to attend the wedding of their nephew. Mariana did this task while I stayed at the hotel. The usual present in a wedding was a bouquet of roses but we hadn't got anything of that kind for the bride. Three bouquets were bought by Mariana and I, one per family for the celebration starting at 17:00 that day and at that very hotel. The roses task was done sooner than expected. The travellers hadn't eaten since they left from their origin, so we bought some food for them. The celebration starting time was closer and closer; and it turned out to be a quite nice event. After a short ceremony all the guests passed to a special hall in the hotel just for our party. A special remark goes to the Bulgarian well-known singer "Grafa" who sang live for all of us: it was a surprise for the bride and her husband who couldn't hide their feelings when they saw him. This actuation filled with good mood the ambient that was very good itself for most of the guests were university mates of the just-married couple, concretely from the Sofía Computing College. The DJ, despite of being a bit old, did his job very well indeed. Summarizing, food, drink and good vibrations. Although the party went on, I had to leave at 00:00 because I had to fly back to Spain very early. I only had five hours and a half to sleep...

Celebration hall

The grooms, the best-man and best-woman

1st. July 2018 Sunday, Return home

The weather seemed to have waited for my return flight to improve. My sleeping hours hadn't been so restorative, but it was one of the possibilities. My alarm buzzed and Mariana and I started to get my last small baggage details ready. I was transferred to the airport at 06:00 by the hotel free transfer service after having a small breakfast at the hotel hall. The return to Spain had one stop in Madrid this time instead of landing directly in Malaga. I got both boarding cards in Sofia for my surprise. My gate was B1. There was time enough even to write in this blog. Seat 09A, that was my seat, at the front of the plane and window side. Like the outbound journey, the plane had two seats per row. It took off before schedule. The passports queue at Madrid was huge. I had to wait for twenty minutes, despite of having landed in an European Union country... when I managed to cross the border control I searched for Terminal K, from where my second plane to Malaga took off. Security check again, but this time was smoother and faster. It was a long walk to Terminal K, a twenty minutes stroll; I waited for my gate confirmation at the area after having lunch in a quiet bistro. Some hours of spare time. Then my gate popped up at the screens: K92, Iberia had informed me ten minutes before by SMS and email though. The flight was comfortable and fast, in only fifty five minutes the plane landed smoothly in Malaga. The ECP van picked me up, and at 20:00 I was back home after picking up Rafaela, my cat, from the cattery. My intention was to watch the football match Spain vs Russia which I had recorded, but after listening the defeat of Spain by radio driving back, I decided to remove it from my recordings... Fortunately everything was in order at home.

Selfie at Barajas airport

Lunch before embarking to Málaga